A.S.T.E.N.E Conference – University of East Anglia (21 – 24th July 2017)

The Association for the Study of Travel in Egypt and the Near East will hold its twelfth biennial conference at the University of East Anglia and Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery, Norwich, from Friday 21 July to Monday 24 July, 2017.

I’ll be speaking on Sunday 23rd of July during session 10 Tourism and Perceptions of the Other on Soldiering In Egypt. My paper will aim to provide an overview surrounding the shared experiences of soldiers serving in Egypt during the period 1914 – 18 with their apparent and well documented interest in the history and archaeology of Egypt. For many young men and women, most of whom had never travelled beyond their home towns, it must have been an incredible experience to look upon the Pyramids at Giza. Troops arriving in Egypt were amazed by the sights and sounds of Cairo and plenty of spare time enabled the opportunity for sightseeing and travel. Their photographs, letters and souvenirs provide a record of life in Egypt during the Great War, an experience which appeared to have left an indelible mark on all who visited. 

For further information on the conference please visit: http://www.astene.org.uk/


‘Now, as this place is 450ft high, it took us a good while to reach the top. Of course, steps 2ft and 2ft 6″ apart make the progress fairly easy. However, we reached it somehow. The top is a level of about 20ft by 20ft so there is heaps of room to walk about. The most  beautiful panoramic view imaginable greeted us on arrival. On one side, we got a splendid view of our camp, which if the people of Australia could only see on paper, would be worth thousands. On another side are the remains of an ancient city, and natives are excavating for hidden treasure, also a number of tombs, which were a wonderful sight’ 

Private Jack Colless, A.I.F, Giza, c.1914







‘Views of an Antique Land’ Project Conference (20th May 2017)

I was so pleased to be invited to speak at the closing ‘Views of an Antique Land’ project conference which is being held on the 20th May at Cardiff University.

My paper ‘Recollections and Representations of Cairo (1914/18) – The Egyptian Expeditionary Force’ will include a brief overview of the strategic importance of Egypt and the logistical challenge of housing, feeding and caring for the large numbers of Commonwealth troops involved throughout Egypt. I’ll be talking about leisure and recreation in Great War Cairo, Luxor and Alexandria and how this ‘friendly invasion’ affected life in Cairo for the Egyptian people. I find this ‘social history of soldiering’ enormously entertaining, their reminiscences are at times ribald but they display an intense fascination with the culture and history of Egypt.

For further information on the project please visit:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ww1imagesegypt/

Web link: http://sites.cardiff.ac.uk/ww1imagesegypt/


‘We are camped in the Valley of the Pyramids with two of the big Pyramids in sight. They are an enormous size … a wonderful piece of work … All of the Australian troops except the Light Horse are camped here. The Light Horse are camped on the other side of town. The New Zealanders are with them … The camp is like a huge town. It is laid out in streets and blocks and each battalion has a block. We have been making rifles ranges, building latrines, making roads, building mess rooms and a thousand and one jobs which are required in a camp like this’ 

Sapper Ernest Charles Tubbenhauer, 1st Division Engineers, Mena Camp, Cairo, c.1915

Sister M.T. Martin and her visit to the Great Pyramid

Sister Mary Theresa Martin (1881 – 1929), an Australian Nurse who served with the 2nd Australian General Hospital in Cairo, Egypt. She sailed from Sydney on the 28th November 1914 on the Kyarra, a steel cargo passenger and luxury liner requisitioned and converted into a hospital ship (HMAT A.55 Kyarra) for the purpose of transporting Australian medical units to Egypt.

Mary Martin’s life was probably no different from numerous others who joined and served in the Commonwealth forces during the Great War. However, through one small incident – a memorable visit to the Great Pyramid , she left her name to posterity as the first lady to explore Campbell’s Chamber.

Whilst in Egypt with thousands of other Australian troops waiting to be deployed, Mary Martin visited the Great Pyramid at Giza and painted her name on the wall inside Campbell’s Chamber, the uppermost of four chambers directly above the Kings Chamber. The graffiti reads “SISTER M. T. MARTIN 6.2.15 – FIRST LADY TO EXPLORE THIS TOMB” indicating that she visited the pyramid on 6 February 1915. This date is consistent with the deployment of Australian troops who trained in Egypt before being sent into action.

After serving in France she returned to Australia in November 1918 and took up employment at the Prince of Wales Hospital, Sydney. She  died suddenly in 1929 at the relatively young age of 48 and was buried in the Roman Catholic section of the Botany Cemetery.

Kheops Cambell's Chamber

‘Campbell’s Chamber’, named after Major-General Patrick Campbell (1779 – 1857), Agent and Consul-General of Egypt, 1833 by its discoverer Giovanni Battista Caviglia




Sister Martin (seated) at the Gezirah Palace, c.1915, Image Source: The Australian War Memorial, H16403 refers